Exploration of Roanoke Island, 1584
Almost bounded by Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the globe in 1580 and the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the first phase of English colonizing efforts in the New World was initiated by Sir Humphrey Gilbert and continued by his half-brother Sir Walter Ralegh. Gilbert, after an aborted voyage in 1578, took possession of Newfoundland in 1583, but was lost at sea on his return to England. Shortly thereafter, Ralegh received a patent to plant settlements in the unclaimed area south of Gilbert's territory. Exercising his grant with amazing speed, he prepared a reconnaissance voyage which departed England on 27 April 1584, and arrive at the coast of what is now North Carolina, appropriately enough, on the 4th of July.
The following links develop separate aspects of the half-brothers' reconnaissance voyages:
Navigation and Related Instruments in 16th-Century England
Sir Humphrey Gilbert
Amadas and Barlowe